Many people don’t have a full understanding of addiction. They might believe, for instance, that a person lacks inner strength or willpower. People tend to believe that a person has some sort of personal flaw that is driving them to drink or use drugs again and again. People also tend to believe that a person should be able to stop; all they need to do is decide to do it. With a little inner strength and perseverance they should be able to quit.
However, research and a greater understanding of addiction has shown that this is simply not true. Sadly, when a person is addicted to drugs or alcohol, they will often have a hard time quitting, even if they wanted to. Addiction is an illness that changes the brain in certain ways which creates compulsive drug-seeking behavior. Because of this a person can’t just decide to quit, they will need more than just willpower and a firm intention.
Addiction is an illness that affects the functioning of the brain. Once a person is drinking or using drugs on a regular basis, it can be easy for an addiction to set in. Although the decision to use drugs or drink is voluntary in the beginning, later using substances may no longer feel like a choice. The changes to the brain create compulsive behavior. A compulsion is a strong urge to do something. This means that even if a person didn’t want to use drugs or drink, the compulsory behavior that addiction creates might drive them to use anyway, even despite the negative consequences that come with it. Addiction gets in the way of a person’s self-control and weakens their ability to resist the urge to drink or use drugs.
Even after a person gets help for addiction, those strong urges may still be there. However, the support of a sober community, professional help, and the assistance of family and friends can aid a person in staying sober. In fact, one of the most important things in recovery is a person’s involvement in a community of those who are focused on sobriety. Prior to being in such a community, a person will tend to be focused on their cravings and triggers and compulsions to use. Recovery without a community can be risky and may lead to relapse.
Ways to Find and Join a Sober Community
- attend 12-step meetings regularly
- live at a sober living home or halfway house
- attend a support group on a regular basis
- attend community events that are focused on sobriety and recovery
- join an online sober community
- join secular recovery groups such as SOS
- spend time with sober friends and family
If you are a friend or loved one of a recovering addict, the best support you can provide is letting them know that you’re there when they need it. Having help and feeling supported gives a person hope and more resilience for resisting cravings when they arise. And if you’re a recovering addict, ask for help from friends, family members, or your sponsor. Although addiction affects the brain and creates compulsory behavior, with the enough support in recovery, a person can in fact overcome this illness.